Final Score: Oklahoma St. 41 Stanford 38 (1 OT)
Brandon Wheedon, quarterback for the #3 Oklahoma Cowboys and Andrew Luck, quarterback for the #4 Stanford Cardinal, engaged in an epic battle of two of the best gunslingers in college football in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, but in the end, it came down to the teams' kickers. A matchup that heavily favored the Cowboys.
Stanford freshman Jordan Williamson missed 3 of 4 field goal attempts, including one on the first possession of the game, one that would have won the game for the Cardinal on the last play of regulation, and one in overtime. All were makeable, and Williamson had plenty of length on the kicks, but no accuracy. The miss that cost the Cardinal the win at the end of the fourth quarter was only the second time Stanford had failed to score after driving into an opponent's red zone all season.
The third miss opened the door for Quinn Sharp, the Big XII's all-conference punter and placekicker, to deliver the game winner, which was the only time the Cowboys led in the game.
Luck completed 27 of 31 passes, for 347 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Wheedon completed 29 of 42 passes, for 399 yards, and 3 touchdowns.
But while Weeden was out-producing the ultra accurate Luck, the Stanford ground game was grinding out 243 yards on 50 carries, including a career high 177 yards and 2 touchdowns on 35 carries by Stepfan Taylor, and another 65 yards by Jeremy Stewart.
It's not unprecedented for an opposing quarterback to out-produce Luck, but not by enough to beat the Cardinal when Luck gets the kind of infantry support Taylor and Stewart gave him. And it looked like it might be the case again, as the Stanford defense held Joseph Randle to just 23 yards, though he did have the game tieing touchdown with 2:35 left, and the Cowboys to only 13 net rushing yards on 15 carries.
Stanford's edge on the ground gave them a time of possession advantage of over 8 and a half minutes, which kept Weeden from rolling up even bigger numbers, and would have won the game given competent kicking.
The game got off to a fairly slow start, after sizable gains by Stewart and Tyler Gaffney went for naught on Williamson's 41 yard miss.
Weeden served up an interception to Terrence Brown on the Cowboy's first play, but Stanford couldn't capitalize on the opportunity after Richetti Jones sacked Luck.
But after a 3 and punt by Oklahoma St., Luck got things in gear, hitting Ty Montgomery for a 53 yard touchdown strike, and a 7-0 lead.
Luck, like Weeden, suffered a first quarter interception, but it also caused no damage, after the Cardinal defense forced another 3 and punt.
Luck's 16 yard completion to Gaffney set up Stewart's 24 yard touchdown run that put Stanford up 14-0, but Weeden quickly responded, with touchdown bombs of 43 and 67 yards to Justin Blackmon, to tie the game up.
The game was tied again, at 21-21, at the half, after both Luck and Weedon directed length of the field drives.
Luck had completed 11 of 14 passes, for 164 yards, and Weeden 13 of 21, for 239 yards by the break. Taylor had 82 yards rushing, and Blackmon already had 139 yards, and the 2 scores, receiving.
Stanford retook the lead on a 16 yard Luck to Zach Ertz touchdown pass, but a fumble on their own 3 yard line after Luck and the lightly used Geoff Meinken couldn't get the handoff exchange made cleanly gave Oklahoma St. a great chance to tie the game again.
However, the Cowboys' inability to generate a rushing game resulted in their having to settle for a short, 19 yard field goal by Sharp.
Luck led Stanford on their 25th. scoring drive of 10 or more plays of the season, most in the NCAA, but a holding penalty forced the Cardinal to settle for a 30 yard Williamson field goal on the second play of the fourth quarter, which gave them only a 7 point, 31-24 lead.
A bad kickoff by Williamson that went out of bounds gave Oklahoma St. a short field, and Weeden completed 7 passes in 7 plays, the last one a 17 yard touchdown toss to Blackmon for his third score of the night, to tie the game up again.
Stanford's fortunes took a hit when TE Coby Fleenor went out, but the Cardinal put together a punishing drive, in which they ran 10 of 13 plays, and consumed almost half of the fourth quarter. Luck completed his 15th consecutive pass, a 1 yard completion to Taylor for the touchdown that put Stanford ahead 38-31 with 4:34 left in the game.
It looked like that was the game winner when the Stanford defense forced Oklahoma St. into a 4th and 3 at their own 40 yard line. But with time winding down, Cowboys coach Mike Gundy gambled, and Weeden delivered a 21 yard completion to Blackmon. And then a 19 yard completion to Randle, and another to Michael Harrison for 16 yards.
Stanford appeared to decide to concede the score in order to get Luck the ball back, and Randle walked in for the game tieing score.
It appeared that it would work out for the Cardinal, as Luck completed 4 consecutive passes, and then another mixed in with 3 Taylor runs, picking up 4 first downs, and then positioning Williamson right in the middle of the field for a 35 yard chip shot field goal for the win.
Which Williamson hooked to the left. As he did a 43 yard attempt on Stanford's possession in overtime, that one from the right hash.
Weeden hit Colton Chelf for what appeared to be the game winning touchdown on the Cowboys' second play, but replay revealed Chelf had been brought down a yard short of the goal line. Recalling the unsuccessful third quarter goal line experience, Gundy directed the ball be centered, and then sent Sharp, the only Big XII kicker ever to be named the all-conference kicker in both the placekicking and punting capacity, out to win the game.
As a result, Oklahoma St. (12-1, 8-1) set a school record for wins, and won their first "major" bowl since beating St. Mary's to win the 1946 Sugar Bowl.
Stanford (11-2, 8-1), who had Tiger Woods on the sideline as the honorary team captain, failed to win their second consecutive BCS bowl, after having won last year's Orange Bowl over Virginia Tech.
The loss left the Pac-12 with a 2-5 mark in bowls.
Montgomery led a cadre of 9 Stanford receivers that Luck, who will likely be the #1 pick in the upcoming NFL draft, completed passes to, with 7 catches, for 120 yards, while Blackmon, who announced after the game that he will turn pro, had 8 catches, for 186 yards, and the 3 touchdowns, all 3 game leading numbers.
Luck has done virtually everything for Stanford in his stay there, except kick. In hind sight, perhaps coach David Shaw should have had Luck add that to his resume in his last off-season.